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Valued Exports: Social Standards in EU and U.S. Trade Agreements

Postnikov, Evgeny (2014) Valued Exports: Social Standards in EU and U.S. Trade Agreements. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The European Union (EU) and the United States (U.S.) are rapidly signing bilateral preferential trade agreements (PTAs) that are used as vehicles for exporting social regulation, such as labor and environmental standards. Despite the similarity in terms of the inclusion of such provisions, their design varies greatly between U.S. and EU agreements. The United States exports its domestic standards, while the EU emphasizes international rules. Furthermore, the former relies on a more coercive approach than the latter when enforcing these provisions. Why do U.S. PTAs have stricter social standards than those signed by the EU? What makes U.S. provisions wider in scope, more enforceable, and legally binding than similar provisions pursued by the EU? Using the principal-agent theory to explain the politics of social provisions in PTAs, I argue that weaker institutional insulation of trade policy executives from interest groups and legislators results in the ability of the former to set the agreement agenda independently of the latter. Thus, in the EU, where institutional insulation is high, social provisions mirror the normative preferences of executives in the European Commission, playing the role of a policy entrepreneur, rather than the interests of NGOs, labor unions, and businesses. In the United States, where such insulation is low, social provisions reflect the preferences of interest groups rather than trade policy executives. Consequently, EU and U.S. approaches differ in terms of their enforcement of social provisions – the former relies on dialogue with governments and civil society actors and the latter on sanctions. I argue that both approaches are effective but work through different causal mechanisms: prior to signing an agreement due to a fear of future sanctions or, in the absence of coercion, as a result of learning during the implementation process. Thus, U.S. provisions have positive ex ante effects, while EU provisions positive ex post effects. I test my argument using the methods of process-tracing and structured focused comparison of labor and environmental provisions in the paired cases of EU-Chile, U.S.-Chile, EU-South Korea, and U.S.-South Korea PTAs, relying on data from interviews with interest groups and policy-makers in Brussels, Washington, Santiago, and Seoul.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Postnikov, Evgenyemp33@pitt.eduEMP33
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairStaniland, Martinmstan@pitt.eduMSTAN
Committee MemberPeters, B. Guybgpeters@pitt.eduBGPETERS
Committee MemberRudra,
Committee MemberSbragia, Albertasbragia@pitt.eduSBRAGIA
Date: 29 September 2014
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 16 July 2014
Approval Date: 29 September 2014
Submission Date: 27 August 2014
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 209
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Graduate School of Public and International Affairs > Public and International Affairs
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: preferential trade agreements; trade policy; labor; environment; principal-agent theory; European Union; United States; Chile; South Korea
Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2014 17:39
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2019 05:15


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